From politics to storytelling and local history, LIFE@Western Carolina offers educational and social opportunities to area seniors through its upcoming fall program.

Registration is open for the weekly sessions, which are held Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the Biltmore Park Town Square campus of Western North Carolina University.

“It’s really a good program … You just show up,” said Robert James, executive committee president who volunteers with LIFE@Western Carolina.

Unlike regular college courses, there are no tests or homework—just informative sessions with lively discussions afterward, he said.

“The social networking is great,” James said.

Among noteworthy lecturers scheduled this fall is Chris Cooper, a WCU professor and department head of Political Science and Public Affairs, who will speak on state politics. Cooper is a frequently-sought media source whose work on Southern politics has appeared in more than 40 journal articles and book chapters.

John Boyle will share his experiences and perspectives on the region in a November presentation.

Asheville native Kevan Frazier will give an overview of Asheville’s history also in November. He serves as executive director for WCU programs at Biltmore Park and formerly was a faculty member of the history department at the college.

John Ritchie, a psychologist in private practice, will offer insights into the process of conscious aging during his presentation. He is former director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at WCU.

Other lectures will feature topics such as discovering ancestry through DNA research, the place of spiders in the ecosystem and the intersection of religion, family and violence among Mormons in nineteenth century Appalachian Georgia.

In December, Arthur Joura of the North Carolina Arboretum will give a presentation on the art of bonsai.

The fall session ends with a holiday reception for members on Dec. 12.

“We’ve had a really good variety,” James said of the presentations. “I think most everybody would find them interesting.”

How to participate

Seniors ages 50 and older who would like to attend the fall lecture program, which begins Sept. 19, can pay membership dues of $125 for each academic year. The dues include 24 sessions for two semesters, borrowing privileges at WCU’s Hunter Library, parking and a holiday reception and annual luncheon.

Members may also choose to participate on a semester basis by paying an $80 membership fee each semester.

The lectures at the Biltmore Park Town Square campus, 28 Schenck Parkway.

The LIFE@ Western Carolina program was started by WCU Provost Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar several years ago in order to provide learning opportunities to retirees and those 50 and older.

The lectures in this lifelong learning program are chosen by a committee of volunteers, most of whom are members of the program. Presenters range from professors at WCU and the University of North Carolina Asheville to community members and other experts in the chosen topic field.

“The LIFE@ Western Carolina Curriculum Committee does a great job of selecting diverse topics that they feel will be of interest to a large group of people,” said Julia Duvall, WCU spokesperson.

Suggestions are collected from the members, previous instructors, or people who know about the program and want to suggest speakers, she noted.

Members can attend lectures at their convenience. If interested participants are out of town the day a session takes place, they may come over to the Cullowhee campus of WCU and listen to the lecture they missed.

The LIFE@Western Carolina membership at Biltmore Park has continued to grow over the years, according to Duvall. Group members often form bonds, and many get together for lunch together after the session ends to continue conversations, she remarked.

People interested in participating in LIFE@Western Carolina can join on the first day of class. The college also offers an opportunity for folks to try out the program by visiting sessions one or two times as a guest.

For more information, contact the WCU Division of Educational Outreach at life@wcu.edu or 828-227-3022.

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